🦁 'A Lion never dies, it only sleeps' - the story of Marc Vivien Foe, a tragedy witnessed on a soccer pitch

🦁 'A Lion never dies, it only sleeps' - the story of Marc Vivien Foe, a tragedy witnessed on a soccer pitch

The 26th of June 2003, is a day that will always remain etched in the minds of many Cameroonians and football fans at large. 

In the 73rd minute of the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final tie between Cameroon and Colombia at the Stade de Gerland Stadium in France, Marc Vivien Foe suddenly collapsed in the middle of the pitch, unchallenged. 

The medical team rushed onto the pitch to try to resuscitate him but could not, and the midfielder was pronounced dead shortly afterward. 

A heart attack cut short his life in what is one of the saddest moments on a football pitch in recent history.

The players and other staff did not know the midfielder, commonly known as 'Marco' to his teammates had passed, as the then Cameroon manager Winfried Schafer recounted in an interview with BBC.

"We won the match 1-0 and the players were dancing in the changing rooms afterwards," 

"Then [captain] Rigobert Song came in and cried and said "Marco, Marco" and told us he was dead.

"Everyone was shocked and was asking why. All the players were crying. I went out of the dressing room and heard two ladies crying very, very loudly. Then I saw Marco lying there, on a table, with his mother and wife by his side. I touched his leg and I went outside and cried too."

It was a sad moment in the finals, Foe's presence was felt as the football world united in an unprecedented moment in history.

Cameroon and France players paid their tribute to the fallen hero as they stood together behind a giant picture of the fallen lion and observed a minute's silence.

Thierry Henry scored a Golden Goal to give France a 3-2 win over the indomitable lions, but the two sides' captains; Rigobert Song and Marcel Desailly lifted the title together and there were banners all over the pitch celebrating the life of a fallen hero. 

"A Lion never dies, it only sleeps" was one of the most notable banners.

Background, senior career

Foe was a Manchester City player at the time of his death, having arrived in Manchester on a 12-month long loan from Olympique Lyonnais. 

He started his career at Canon Yaoundé and went on to win the Cameroonian Cup before receiving a callup to the country's youth sides. 

He graduated into the senior team and was part of the 1994 World Cup squad. He joined Lens for five seasons, leaving in 1999 to join West Ham. 

He would head back to France with Lyon after a single season in England, before making a comeback in 2002, this time with Manchester City. 

Playing style

Foe was a beast in midfield. He provided the perfect shield for defenders, patrolling the entire midfield with ease.

He had the energy to make those forward runs and supplying key passes to his teammates. 

He was a key member of the team that won back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2000 and 2002.

At Manchester City, he had become a regular in the engine room with the club thought to have planned on turning the loan deal into a permanent move.

In total, Foe scored 24 goals for club, and 8 for Cameroon, but he will always be remembered for his personality and discipline on and off the pitch.

"I don't think he ever made an enemy in his life," were Harry Redknapp's words when he eulogizedFoe. 🦁

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